Why Use a Credit Card?
Credit cards can be a useful way to manage your cash flow and increase consumer protection on purchases. Some even offer incentives such as cash back, rewards or 0% interest.
More from Understanding Credit Cards
29 December 2008
Reasons to use a Credit Card
Using your credit card rather than a different form of payment can give you extra consumer protection.
Credit cards are a convenient way to pay for many of the products and services we need on a day to day basis. There are over 1,500 cards in the UK market and the competition is fierce for your business.
Whatever your reason for using a credit card, it is wise to take the time to research the market and pick the right card for your needs.
Pick and Mix?
One of the best ways to use a credit card is to pay all of your monthly expenses on your card and then pay off your balance at the end of the month. This way, you can take advantage of up to 56 days of interest free credit. If you are in this position it is worth investigating cash back cards which offer you money back on your spending or rewards cards, which can give AirMiles or travel points.
Many people use 0% interest credit cards if they have a balance they need to pay off and can use the period of zero interest to their advantage. In this case you need to ensure that the balance is paid off before the promotional rate period is over.
If you can’t pay the entire balance before the offer period expires, look at applying for another 0% offer or an alternative such as a low interest rate for the life of the balance credit card. If you need to use a credit card for monthly expenses, don’t use this one! It may not offer 0% on purchases and negates the point of paying off the balance.
Another reason for using a credit card is to pay for a one off purchase that may be pricier than the usual day-to-day items. If you use a 0% purchase card that gives you an interest free period of three or six months, you can then budget to pay off your balance without incurring any extra interest charges.
Using your credit card rather than a different form of payment can give you extra consumer protection. Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if you pay for items from £100 up to £30,000 both the card issuer and the trader have responsibility under a rule called equal liability. If anything goes wrong such as the goods are damaged or the company goes into liquidation, you will have protection.
This is why many people book flights or a package holiday on their credit card and then pay it off after they have made the transaction. This consumer protection does not exist if you pay by cash or debit card.
Go to adviceguide if you require full details of your consumer rights. Citizens Advice provides this advice guide.
This protection also applies if you part pay for something on a credit card and it also covers for items purchased overseas and over the Internet.
Check the small print of your credit card to see if it includes price protection. This means that if you make a purchase at one price and it becomes cheaper in a sale or a special discounted period, you may be able to claim back the difference. A time period usually applies to this of 60 days from your original purchase and generally covers from £10 to £1,000.
Other extras can include travel insurance or extended warranty periods on electrical appliances. It is worth checking the small print in your credit cards Terms and Conditions.
In brief there are plenty of ways to make using your credit card work to your advantage. The protection afforded on the purchase of a holiday for instance is particularly useful. Losing your money if a travel company goes bust can be devastating. If you have saved up all year, buy the holiday using your credit card and then pay it off straight away.
Cash back on your spending is another smart way to use a card. If you put monthly expenses of £500 on your card and the provider gives back 1% this amounts to yearly cash back of £60. This is money that can be put towards Christmas or a holiday. If you do use your card in this way, shop around to see if you can gain the best cash back rate.
Written by Alex Adams